Cell phones get the OK

Now you can call all your friends and tell them the news: The link between cell phones and cancer is not strong. Not at all. The New York Cancer Times reports about the findings of a study in the Brit medical journal BMJ. Researchers studied almost 360,000 Danish cell phone users and according to the Times, found no increased risk of brain tumors with long-term use.

There's a caveat: The researchers said they did not record the actual amount of time that callers used their phones. There still might be a small increased risk of cancer in people who use cell phones often, and for 10 or 15 years. (Well, won't we all have used them for 15 years pretty soon?)

So don't throw away your tin cans and string yet. And keep studying that Morse Code!

Radiation is Good, says the Lancet

The New York Times just reported on an important British study showing that radiation prevented recurrences and saved lives of women who had lumpectomies.

Specifically, researchers at the University of Oxford found radiation reduced the risk of a recurrence during the first 10 years after surgery to 19.3 percent from 35 percent, and reduced the risk of death from breast cancer from 21.4 percent to 25.2 percent in the first 15 years. Radiation provided results better than chemo or hormonal therapy alone.

The Oxford doctors analyzed 17 studies of almost 11,000 women in the U.S., Canada and Europe. Women with estrogen-positive tumors who took tamoxifen (to keep their bodies from absorbing natural estrogen) and had radiation had a smaller chance of recurrence than those whose tumors did not feed on estrogen.

And where there's a plus, there's a minus. Thomas A. Bucholz reports in The Lancet: if radiation is not used, this persistent locoregional disease can metastasise and increase the chance of dying from breast cancer.

So use it or lose it.

While I was Out...

The New York Times had a good mid-October report on the pinking of America. Basically, it was about the rise of the upbeat Komen for the Cure... and its critics. Cancer Bitch has been a critic of Komen for being so large and media-glitzy but since 2008 it's been putting its funds into prevention and cure. Imagine that! Some good quotes:
The pink ribbons have become a distraction.--Karuna Jaggar, executive director, Breast Cancer Action
On Komen ads: It changes the focus of what we should be looking at to some advertising, marketing slogan. --Dr. Otis W. Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society.
-We could prevent countless deaths if everyone got the same level of care as upper-class white women in Boston or New York.” --Dr. Eric P. Winer, director of the breast cancer program at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and chief scientific adviser for Komen.

And in today's (Tuesday's) Times*, there's a first-person piece by a doctor-professor who had the same stage cancer I did, 2A. Every year, she says, she checks a certain new edition of a medical textbook and consults its survival tables. There it is: Table 17-6. Average Survival of Patients With Breast Cancer by Stage.

It hasn’t changed a bit. Patients with breast cancer like mine, Stage IIA, still have a five-year survival rate of 70 percent (not great, but O.K.) and a 10-year rate of 50 percent (not good at all).

Her own doctor told her that her chances are much better than that, that the stats include those with "nasty" cancers. And I'm wondering why Feld had a lumpectomy and radiation and I had mastectomy and chemo. (Everyone's cancer is different. Of course. But I think the diff is that I had two tumors and there was no way to cut them out with clear margins and save the breast.)

We want to know. We want to know how much time we have. Which reminds me of one of the stories in Miriam Engelberg's memoir in comics, Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person. One of the things people say to someone with cancer, she wrote, is: After all, any of us could get hit by a bus tomorrow! She was, she recounts, actually hit by a bus once. Before she had cancer. She was OK. Without a scratch. I'm glad, of course, that I didn't die 15 years ago, thought it would have saved a lot of emotional anguish and nausea.
So she survived being hit by a bus. Then got breast cancer and died.

*Cancer is like catnip for the Times. Or, to put it this way: Cancer is to the Times as World War II is to the New York Review of Books.

Return of the Bitch

It has been more than a month since I've blogged and I thought it was due to laziness but it may have been lack of urgency, since this is partly an illness blog. But luckily!! a bacterium invaded and now I can write about it! Alas, breast and blood cancer are much cleaner illnesses than bacterial infection of the stomach. Luckily, this infection should be gone a week after it started, though it was not without its high points. They included a six-hour stay in the ER at Plain'n'Pious Hospital, where my doctor is affiliated, featuring a pulse rate of 125, one IV and several immodium, or I suppose the plural would be immodia.
As she was very nicely driving me to PPH, G gave me heart-attack advice, which seems worth repeating: If you think you're having a heart attack, take aspirin and call and ambulance, because the ambulance-driven customers get more respect.
I saw my doctor today and she almost sent me in for another IV, but I told her I wasn't willing to spend hours in the ER again. She said she would call ahead and order it, but I doubted I would get quick service. She sent me downstairs to get the collection container for a sample (because PPH's sample showed nothing, and she dismissed it as a crude test anyway; if I trusted in PPH I would say that it probably checks for dire illnesses with large molecules). I walked in and the clerk said to sign the board. Did we need to have our names so publicly and largely displayed? I looked around. There was no board, black or white. She pointed. Oh, there was a list on a clipboard. But really, have you ever heard such a list called "a board"? I know, we call a table a table even when there's a cloth over it. Anyway, she asked if I wanted a hat. She had in hand a large plastic object that would make a perfect hat if you were standing on your head while balancing on the sides of the toilet seat. Also it can be used to catch your waste before putting it in the sample cup. She told me, It's disposable.
That's a relief.
Later I took a bus about two blocks to the Landmark and saw The Hedgehog, or Le Herrison, which has many and even mostly wonderful parts but isn't a great movie. As I discussed it with myself afterwards, I thought the rich Japanese man of the film was too democratic in his friendships and everyone knows the Japanese are xenophobic. Then I responded to myself saying, That's a stereotype, and must every depiction of someone reflect the stereotypical view of people from that country/religion/profession? And I responded to that by affirming, What a good point, and the movie is also showing that only the marginal--foreigners and children--can see beyond rigid lines of class. So, Hegelianly, I concluded I was right.